Finding a Grave

by Ragtimelil

I recently became a card-carrying member of After years of using the site to research my family history, I decided that I would like to give something back.

Find A Grave is a web site dedicated to listing memorials and photographs of grave stones to make a virtual cemetery. All the memorial pages and photos are put up by volunteers. I thought I could at least volunteer to take some photos in cemeteries. That sounded like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

I accepted a request to photograph a marker in the Willis Cemetery. I had no idea, until I got there that the cemetery was huge with over 2,000 graves. I stumbled around the first day for an hour or two. I realized I was going to have to be more organized in my search. I was also going to have to wear better shoes and bring water. I was hot, thirsty and my legs were scratched up from the underbrush. This is not your big city cemetery.

Hot on the Trail

The next time I went out, I searched by sections.


There are 6 sections currently being used including the "Old Section." I took it one by one. I got half done in one day and went back later for the rest. Still no sign of the guy I was looking for. 


Someone on the Find A Grave forum suggested to me that I go to the library and see if I could find a non-alphabetized enumeration for the cemetery. If it is not alphabetized, it would be more or less written down the way the person recording the names would have walked. I could get an idea of who would be buried near the person I was looking for.

More Research

I made a trip to the nearby genealogical library and sure enough, there was the book I was looking for. I copied down half a dozen names with my guy in the middle. I thought that would be it. I ran right over to the cemetery and started hunting. All the records said he was buried in Section One. I suspect the sections had been renamed because I found some of the names I was looking for in the "Old Section". I found most of the names on the list - except for the one I was looking for and the ones on either side. I was hot, tired and thirsty (I had gulped down all my water) and ready to give up. 

Here, But Where

no graves

I went back online to the forum and was told that I could take a picture of where I thought the stone should be. and to let the person who requested the photo know that I simply couldn't find it. Just out of curiosity, I also looked at the Find A Grave memorials for the two on either side of my guy. One did not have a photo but the other one, a Susan King, showed a picture of a stone that had fallen and was lying flat on the ground. I was sure it would be covered over by now with leaves and dirt.


Found at the Last Minute

 I made one more trip, the sixth, to photograph where I thought my missing guy would be. I looked again at the enumeration list.  Just before leaving I looked one more time at two broken bases. I realized that there was another small stone near the base and there were two initials on it -- S.K.

I brushed off the dirt and sure enough - there was Susan King's tombstone lying in front of me. I poked around at the bottom of the other base, and, yes, there was a stone down there in the dirt too. I cleaned it off and there it was. It was the one I had been looking for. The stone isn't actually even broken. It just had fallen over and is slowly sinking into the ground.


Broken Stones
Broken Stones
S. K.
S. K.
Getting Close
Getting Close
And there he is
And there he is




I never would have found it if I hadn't looked on Find A Grave and found a picture of the stone next to him and known that it probably was buried. It does help to try to find pictures of nearby stones! The Find A Grave web site helped me to find a grave for their web site.


A Few Things I Learned


  • Bring water and a sun hat. A good walking stick might help too.
  • Bring a soft brush, your notes and, of course, a camera.
  • Wear sturdy shoes.
  • Do your research. Knowing who might be nearby, especially in a large cemetery, can save hours of searching.
  • Don't give up

.Know what you can and can't do to a tombstone. Do nothing to clean it unless you are a family member.

Updated: 09/01/2013, Ragtimelil
Thank you! Would you like to post a comment now?

Cemetery Comments

Only logged-in users are allowed to comment. Login
Ragtimelil on 09/05/2013

Wow. I'm trying to get some info on my Italian side of the family. I want to put some memorials up for them but I need the name of the cemetery. My sister is working on it.

JoHarrington on 09/05/2013

Flanders. He was Welsh, during the First World War, which meant that he didn't have much of a chance of not being buried in Flanders.

Ragtimelil on 09/05/2013

Really? Where was it?

JoHarrington on 09/05/2013

I found my great uncle Ralph's grave on this site!

Ragtimelil on 09/03/2013

Thank you. It was like a treasure hunt. I did get a nice note from the requester.

kimbesa on 09/02/2013

I applaud your perseverance in finding that stone, and I'll be the requester was very happy! Old cemeteries are very interesting and it's easy to make an all-day trip out of them.

Ragtimelil on 09/02/2013

Yes, they have a page for each grave. You can leave virtual flowers. It's not a family tree site, just graves. Some sites have been posted not just because someone requested it, but just because it wasn't there. I found a memorial that didn't have a picture of the tombstone, so I took a picture and posted it there - just because.

dustytoes on 09/02/2013

This sounds very interesting. So the site posts requests for graves and others, who live in that area volunteer to find them? I should visit the site I guess. As you know, there are a lot of old graveyards here in New England.

Ragtimelil on 09/01/2013

It's not exclusive to this country. I haven't explored other countries in it yet.

frankbeswick on 09/01/2013

Is the find a grave site exclusive to America, or could I find a grave in Britain with it?

You might also like

Using Free Genealogy Sites

Researching your Family History and don't want to spend a fortune but also wa...

NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David R. Dowell

NextGen Genealogy: The DNA Connection by David R. Dowell links atDNA, mtDNA, ...

Disclosure: This page generates income for authors based on affiliate relationships with our partners, including Amazon, Google and others.
Loading ...